I was looking up information on my favorite TV show, House M.D., when I found a site Devoted to Hugh Laurie, about the actor who plays Dr. House. Besides recurring depression, one of the things Laurie and I have in common is a sense of inadequacy or unworthiness that, according to our friends and fans, is out of proportion with our skills, talents, and accomplishments. It’s about not wanting to be seen as “cocky,” as he put it in an interview.
I wonder just how much he’s like me in this regard. For me, it’s an attitude or stance I actually cultivate. I tend to vacillate between feeling superior and feeling inferior, but feeling inferior is far safer socially. It’s much more comfortable to have people saying I’m too hard on myself, or trying to convince me how talented I am, than to have people feeling the need to cut me down a peg or put me in my place.
So I try to starve the superior feelings, and secretly feed the inferior ones. Mixed motives indeed; by feeding the inferior feelings, I get the messages from others that feed the superior feelings. Mmmm. That way I can be cocky without being seen as cocky.
There’s also spiritual motivation for feeding the inferiority complex. After all, sin is my responsibility. All the good stuff about me is thanks to God, but sin is all my own. The only thing that’s all my own. At least that’s how it seems: God gets all the credit for anything good about me, and the only thing that I can claim as truly mine is my sin. (Yet perhaps that’s not entirely true. There is a devil. Not that I can say “the devil made me do it,” but perhaps I would not have sinned if he hadn’t introduced the idea to my ancestors. So perhaps not even sin is truly mine.)
This isn’t a balanced, biblical view. Really, I am simultaneously both the most amazing thing God has ever done, the creature he most highly values, and the lowest, worst traitor to him. Amazing and highly valued because I am created in his image, and because — for his own reasons — he loves me and has adopted me into his own family, giving me his family identity. That’s truly mine — a gift, so not something I can take credit for, but it’s still my identity.
I suppose my waffling between superiority and inferiority is my misguided and fallen attempt to come to terms with these two truths. I suppose my sanctification will include guiding and redeeming this attempt, refining it and balancing my perspective until I understand what it really means to be what I am.
This waffling pervades my life, but it’s most noticeable in my artistic pursuits, particularly music.
I have a younger friend that has the same issue. She’s into drawing and writing and music, like I was at her age. What I’ve seen most of is her drawing. She’s got a natural edge; smooth lines, a good sense of space and proportion. She needs a lot of work in other basic techniques, like shading and drawing from life, and she knows that. She prefers to not take classes or take her drawing too seriously. She won’t work hard at it. Because what happens if she works her hardest and doesn’t improve enough? It’s easier to maintain our comfortable compromise between superiority (we know how great we could be, if we would try) and inferiority (by not trying, we don’t need to face our certain failure). It’s more comfortable to stay low and be urged on by one’s friends and fans, than to actually have the gall to try to be better.
And that’s exactly it. Our friends like to encourage us when we’re down on ourselves; but boy do they hate it when people get uppity. So if we take their advice and try something, won’t they switch attitudes?
Hugh Laurie has managed to have some amazing success, and still keep his inadequacy attitude going strong. I wonder if that way he gets to enjoy his success without risking the offense of his friends and fans.